How to Remember the 12 Cranial Nerves: Tips & Mnemonic Tricks

Amanda Thomas Apr 10, 2024
Cranial Nerves Closeup

Welcome to the ultimate guide for every nursing student who has stayed up late at night, staring blankly at a textbook, wishing there was an easier way to remember the cranial nerves.

Well, there is!

If you need a mnemonic for cranial nerves or some tips on remembering them, you’ve come to the right place.

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  1. Quick Review of the 12 Cranial Nerves
  2. Mnemonics to Remember the 12 Cranial Nerves

Quick Review of the 12 Cranial Nerves

Before diving into how to remember cranial nerves, let’s quickly review what they are.

Cranial nerves, which originate from the brain, control various functions in the head and neck like:

  • Movement
  • Sensation
  • Vision

There are 12 pairs, and they’re numbered in the order they connect to the brain. For more information on each specific nerve, check out our YouTube video on the 12 cranial nerves.

Now, let’s move on to the fun part — how to remember them!

Mnemonic to Remember the 12 Cranial Nerves

One popular mnemonic for cranial nerves is:

Oh, Oh, Oh, To Touch And Feel Very Good, Velvet AH!

While it’s a bit long, we think it’s the fastest way to remember the cranial nerves. Each capitalized word represents the first letter of each nerve:

  • Oh – Olfactory (I): allows us to smell
  • Oh – Optic (II): allows us to see
  • Oh – Oculomotor (III): allows us to adjust pupils and eye lens, move eyelids, rotate eyeballs
  • To – Trochlear (IV): allows us to move eyeballs
  • Touch – Trigeminal (V): allows us to chew, feel sensations in the face and mouth
  • And – Abducens (VI): allows us to move eyeballs
  • Feel – Facial (VII): allows us to form facial expressions, produce tears, and sensory of the tongue
  • Very – Vestibulocochlear (VIII): allows us to hear and maintain balance
  • Good – Glossopharyngeal (IX): allows us to produce saliva, swallow, and taste
  • Velvet – Vagus (X): allows us to control the peripheral nervous system (PNS)
  • A – Accessory (XI): allows us to move the neck and shoulder, swallow
  • H – Hypoglossal (XII): allows us to formulate speech, move the tongue movement, swallow

Mnemonic to Remember If a Cranial Nerve is Sensory, Motor, or Both

To remember whether a cranial nerve is sensory, motor, or both, you just need three letters: S, M, and B.

  • S: Sensory
  • M: Motor
  • B: Both (sensory and motor)

Now, you can create a mnemonic for cranial nerves to quickly recall the function of a specific nerve.

Mnemonic to Remember the Functions of Each Cranial Nerve

To remember the functions of the cranial nerves, use this mnemonic:

Some Say Marry Money, But My Brother Says Big Brains Matter Most

This mnemonic for cranial nerves corresponds to the first letter of each nerve’s function in order:

  • Some: Sensory (olfactory – I)
  • Say: Sensory (optic – II)
  • Marry: Motor (oculomotor – III)
  • Money: Motor (trochlear – IV)
  • But: Both (trigeminal – V)
  • My: Motor (abducens – VI)
  • Brother: Both (facial – VII)
  • Says: Sensory (vestibulocochlear – VIII)
  • Big: Both (glossopharyngeal – IX)
  • Brains: Both (vagus – X)
  • Matter: Motor (spinal accessory – XI)
  • Most: Motor (hypoglossal – XII)

Mnemonic to Remember the Order of Each Cranial Nerve

Another popular mnemonic for cranial nerves is:

On Old Olympus Towering Top A Fin And German Viewed Some Hops

This mnemonic corresponds to the first letter of each nerve’s name in order:

  • On: Olfactory (I)
  • Old: Optic (II)
  • Olympus: Oculomotor (III)
  • Towering: Trochlear (IV)
  • Top: Trigeminal (V)
  • A: Abducens (VI)
  • Fin: Facial (VII)
  • And: Auditory (VIII)
  • German: Glossopharyngeal (IX)
  • Viewed: Vagus (X)
  • Some: Sensory (accessory – XI)
  • Hopes: Hypoglossal (XII)

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